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Supervisor of Elections to present counter arguments

Supervisor of Elections to present counter arguments

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Lawyers for supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb will today present arguments in the High Court as to why an application filed by the New Democratic Party (NDP)’s Central Leeward candidate Benjamin Exeter should not be allowed.

Last Thursday, December 17, Exeter’s lawyer, Maia Eustace, applied to the court for the production of and inspection of documents related to the Central Leeward constituency{{more}} of the December 9 General Elections. Stanley ‘Stalky’ John QC also appeared on behalf of Exeter. The application was filed under Rule 53 of the House of Assembly Election Rules and Part 11 of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Civil Procedures Rules 2000 (CPR).

Exeter is seeking to have the High Court order Findlay-Scrubb and the Electoral Office to “produce forthwith all ballot boxes in their custody for all 15 polling divisions in the constituency of Central Leeward in relation to the elections held on 9th December, 2015 and deliver said ballot boxes to the Registrar of the High Court no later than 4 pm on the 17th December, 2015 or by such time as the Court may direct.”

The Registrar of the High Court is Andrea Young-Lewis. The ballot boxes in question are presently in the custody of the Supervisor of Elections.

Exeter also wants the ballot boxes to be opened by the Registrar of the High Court in his presence, or the presence of his representatives.

Exeter and his lawyers have also asked for permission to inspect all ballot papers contained in the ballot boxes and that the sealed packets containing the counterfoils of the ballots in the 15 ballot boxes be opened by the Registrar of the High Court in his presence or in the presence of his representatives and that permission be granted for him, whether by himself and or through his representatives to inspect the counterfoils.

According to the document filed last Thursday and argued in court the following day, the position of Exeter and his lawyers is that: “Contrary to the House of Assembly Elections Rules, the Returning Officer ignored objections by the Petitioner’s representatives at the final count and counted as valid more than three hundred (300) ballots which were defective in material respects in that they appeared to have been wilfully mutilated in such a manner that contrary to Rule 31 (I) of the House of Assembly Election Rules, neither an official mark nor any initial of the Presiding Officer appeared on them, and others similarly mutilated which appeared among the ballots in the boxes for other Polling Divisions were ruled invalid by the Respondent.”

The Returning Officer for the Central Leeward constituency is Winston Gaymes.

The number of ballots which were declared at the end of the final count conducted by the Returning Officer was 2,497 to Sir Louis Straker of the ULP and 2,184 to Exeter, making a difference between them of 313 votes.

Presiding officers are obliged to prepare a Form 16 Statement pursuant to Rule 41 of the House of Assembly Rules after the preliminary count of the ballots for each Polling Station.

Exeter’s lawyers claim that the information contained in the Form 16 Preliminary Statement for one Polling Station in respect of used ballots and returned ballots, when combined, is greater than the number of ballots shown as having been received from the Returning Officer. They also claim that during the final count, the Returning Officer refused Exeter’s request for a recount

and a request which was made by his representatives/agents on his behalf to have sight of the counterfoils for this Polling Division.

“In relation to another Polling Station, during the purported final count conducted by the Respondent, he did not produce a Form 16 Preliminary Statement of the Poll and in spite of objections by the Applicant/lntended Petitioner and objections made on his behalf by his representatives/agents, the First Respondent proceeded to count the ballots for that Polling Division and declared the results of the count.”

According to Exeter’s application, because of the denial by the Returning Officer to entertain any requests for recounts by him and his representatives, they were denied the opportunity to conclusively assess the validity of the final count and therefore believe that there was an undue return of the polls in the constituency of Central Leeward.

“Accordingly, the Applicant/Intended Petitioner informed the Returning Officer at the purported final count that he did not accept the validity of the recount and that he will be challenging same in Court.”

Section 57 of the Representation of the People Act Cap 6 of the 2009 Revised Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines provides that a petition complaining of an undue return or undue election of a member of the House of Assembly be presented within 21 days after the return of the Writ is made by the Returning Officer.

According to the court document, the application filed last Thursday is a lead up to the filling of an Election Petition by the NDP, which is to be lodged on behalf of Exeter, complaining “of the undue return or undue election of Sir Louis Straker to the House of Assembly.”

According to Exeter and his lawyers, if their application is not granted, “the Election Petition he intends to file will be negatively impacted in that critical evidence in support of his application may be lost unless the orders are made.”

These court proceedings stem from the result of the December 9 General Elections, which saw the Unity Labour Party (ULP) being returned to office with an 8-7 majority. The NDP say they will not accept the results of the elections, as they are claiming victory in Central Leeward, a seat which is held by the ULP’s Straker.

When the matter continues in the High Court today, attorneys Richard Williams, Grahame Bollers, Parnell Campbell QC and Anthony Astaphan SC, acting on behalf of the respondent Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb, will present arguments as to why the application by Exeter should not be allowed.

Justice Brian Cottle is presiding over the matter. (LC)

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